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Bosnian Serb general convicted, sentenced to 33 years for deadly siege of Sarajevo

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Posted: December 12, 2007 3:48 p.m.
Updated: December 27, 2007 5:00 a.m.
    THE HAGUE, Netherlands — A Bosnian Serb general who ordered the relentless shelling, sniping and indiscriminate terror that rained down on Sarajevo during the final phase of a 44-month siege, was convicted of war crimes Wednesday and given a 33-year prison sentence.
    Citing testimony from survivors of snipers’ bullets and makeshift missiles, the U.N. Yugoslav war crimes tribunal convicted Gen. Dragomir Milosevic of murder, inhumane acts and waging a campaign of terror for orchestrating the last 15 months of the 1992-1995 barrage of the Bosnian capital.
    ‘‘There was no safe place in Sarajevo,’’ said Presiding Judge Patrick Robinson, reading from the judgment. ‘‘One could be killed and injured anywhere and any time.’’
    Milosevic, 65, sat silently listening to a summary of the lengthy judgment, then stood stoically as Robinson pronounced sentence. He had denied all charges, arguing that the city was a battleground and his troops were carrying out legitimate military operations.
    The horror of the siege was played out in front of a global audience as television images broadcast worldwide showed shells slamming into apartment buildings and terrified shoppers huddling for cover behind slow-moving U.N. armored cars.
    Stanislav Galic, Milosevic’s predecessor as commander of the Bosnian Serb Army’s Sarajevo Romanija Corps whose 18,000 troops encircled and bombarded the city, is already serving a life sentence.
    However, Bosnian Serb army chief Gen. Ratko Mladic is evading arrest for his overall command of the Sarajevo campaign and other atrocities, including the Srebrenica massacre. He is thought to be hiding in or near the Serbian capital of Belgrade.
    In Sarajevo, survivors said the 33-year sentence — one of the most severe handed down by the U.N. court — was too short.
    ‘‘Not enough,’’ said Esad Pozder, 60, a Muslim who survived the 1995 Sarajevo market massacre, when 43 civilians were killed and 84 were injured by a mortar shell fired from Serb positions. Among the victims was Pozder’s sister. ‘‘Many will not be happy with that sentence,’’ he said.
    One expert testified that an average of 1,000 shells each day bombarded Sarajevo between 1993 and 1995, with a slight lull during a cease-fire in 1994.
    In their 332-page judgment, the three-judge panel cited examples of survivors such as Alma Cutuna who was hit in the head by shrapnel and in the leg by a sniper’s bullet as she stood on a crowded tram in Sarajevo.
    Breaching the cease-fire, Bosnian Serb sharpshooters targeted the tram on Oct. 8, 1994, as it slowed to negotiate an S-shaped curve near the Holiday Inn hotel on the street known as Sniper Alley.
    They killed one and wounded 11, including children shot while running near the tram. Emergency surgery saved Cutuna’s life.
    Judges also recalled the case of Mesuda Klaric whose husband was among 34 people killed when a shell struck the Markale Market on Aug. 28, 1995.
    The shell landed near Klaric and her husband, Ismet. As she regained consciousness, her husband told her: ‘‘I lost my arm,’’ the judgment said.
    Rescuers pushed her into a car next to a girl whose foot had been blown off and put her husband — who also had lost a foot — in the trunk. He was rushed into surgery but did not survive, Klaric told judges during the trial.
    ‘‘One of the police officers who investigated the incident described what he saw as ’the last, deepest circle of Dante’s Hell,’’’ judges wrote.
    The ‘‘evidence discloses a horrific tale of encirclement and entrapment of a city ... and its bombardment’’ by Bosnian Serb forces of the Sarajevo Romanija Corps, or SRK, under Milosevic’s command, said the ruling by the U.N. court.
    Milosevic is not related to the former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 before his genocide trial could be completed.
    General Milosevic pioneered the use of makeshift missiles called modified air bombs — airplane bombs attached to rockets so they could be launched from the ground but that could not be accurately directed. The use of such indiscriminate weapons in a civilian area is illegal.
    Sarajevo resident Dzemail Cilas, 63, said Milosevic deserved a harsher sentence. ‘‘All those people killed, the children ... and he ordered it. He should have received a life sentence, just to drag his soul through life till the end.’’
    But underscoring tensions that have persisted more than a decade after fighting ended, Bosnian Serb Dragan Radojkovic condemned the verdict and sentence.
    ‘‘This is another proof that this is a political court,’’ said Radojkovic. ‘‘Such a high sentence for Gen. Milosevic and he is our national hero.’’
    ————
    Aida Cerkez-Robinson contributed to this report from Sarajevo.

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